Tag Archives: fiction

I’m too clean to edit erotic fiction

30 Aug


… or so say Ellora’s Cave. At least I think that’s what they say. I applied for a copy editing position for Ellora’s Cave – a site that publishes romance fiction and various forms of erotic fiction. As part of my application I was asked to fill in an extensive questionnaire and to submit a resume, and at that point I’d be sent a copy editing test to undertake.

Among the questions was my definitions of  romance, sensual romance, erotica and pornography (or something like that), and the types of books, online mags etc. I read. Clearly they were not what Ellora’s Cave were looking for.

Imagine my surprise when I received the following email:

Dear Ms. Hartog,

Thank you for your interest in the editing positions at Ellora’s Cave, and for taking the time to complete the application and send your resume. Unfortunately, based on those, we don’t currently feel we’re an appropriate match for your strengths. Perhaps our professional paths will cross again in the future.

I wish you the best of luck in finding compatible and fulfilling employment!

Call me crazy, but I think a good editor is a good editor, no matter the material. I had a job editing right wing Republican rants, something far more out of my comfort zone than erotic literature, and my ability to parse those sentences was not impeded by my non right-wing leanings.  And, I even let Ellora’s Cave know I had been a top rated runner up in a Mills & Boon (the non-American version of Harlequin Romance) short story competition.  And I reviewed my great creative writing teacher – Rachel Resnick’s latest book, Love Junkie. And that’s full of erotic unmentionables. Sheesh!  I can’t believe  they didn’t even let  me take the test!

And so, it appears, my paws just aren’t smutty enough to edit erotic fiction. I will now have to take my heaving bosom and my dirty gerunds and seek solace in the arms of a vibrant, chiseled editor at another company.


Drumroll please… new Web site almost ready to launch

27 Aug

scribbler logo copyDear All,

I’m excited to say that I’m about to launch my new Web site – Scribblers on the Roof!

Website is http://www.jscribes.com but you won’t be able to access it just yet.

Send submissions to submissions@jscribes.com or send your thoughts, views, ideas to editor@jscribes.com. Submission details are below – keep reading!

Scribblers on the Roof was born out of a need for a dedicated place for both established and emerging writers of fiction and poetry with Jewish themes to submit their work. While there are some wonderful Jewish publications that have small sections for for creative writing they are few and far between and they are not dedicated solely to the craft of poetry and prose.

There are also many many fine “non-Jewish” literary publications where writers can submit their work. However, sometimes a piece may contain certain references or even words in Hebrew or Yiddish that a non-Jewish audience may simply not understand.

Scribblers on the Roof is also dedicated to allowing Jewish writers to connect with one another, and support and encourage each other in their literary pursuits. We aim to bring together writers of Jewish poetry and fiction from around the globe, showcase their talents, provide resources for their work, as well as host competitions, and challenge writers to delve into their Jewish backgrounds.

Remember, you don’t have to be Jewish to submit, just have stories and poems that have Jewish themes and/or content.

Launch is in September 09. Please submit your work and be part of our official launch!


* Scribblers on the Roof welcomes unsolicited submissions of original fiction and poetry only.
* All submissions must have identifiable Jewish themes or content.
* You may submit previously published work only if you have retained the rights to your piece. Please state where and when the piece was previously published and confirm that you have permission to publish on Scribblers on the Roof.
* Scribblers on the Roof accepts simultaneous submissions
* Fiction submissions may be anywhere from 500-5,000 words.
* Fiction submissions over 1,500 words deemed suitable for publication will be serialized over a period of weeks depending on the length of the story.
* Poetry submissions must be no more than 4 pages.
* Scribblers on the Roof only accepts electronic submissions
* Send submissions to submissions@jscribes.com
* All submissions must be in a Word Doc (.doc), double-spaced and in 12-point font.
* Please include your name, email address and word count, and a short, relevant biography (no more than two lines) on a separate page.
* If your piece is accepted for publication, you will be notified by email.

The write to be happy

26 Jul

So, where have I been for the last six months? What happened to my resolve, my life, my outlook, my world? Well, a lot to be frank and none of it particularly good. I need the discipline of being answerable to something/someone, and so, dear blog, you are it. You are here from this day forth to keep me on track. Do you hear me?

Where  I have been in the last six months is less important than how I move forward. But, to bring you up to speed, it’s been a tough half-year, complete with the loss of my steady freelance gigs, a stint in hospital, the turning down of a great job to write a travel guide book for Frommers to my home town of Jerusalem in favour of a great great writing job that made me so happy professionally and paid more money than I knew what to do with. Maybe it’s because I really wouldn’t know what to do with all that money that it turned out that job never paid me. Two months of work, thousands of dollars later and now I”m as poor as a synagogue mouse (to quote from Topol in Fiddler on the Roof, whom I saw the other night – -AMAZING – but I digress).


Am I mad? You bet I am. Do I hope to see my money someday? You bet I do. Am I doing everything in my power to try and get that money from them? You bet I am. But, with the upheaval and turmoil and sickness and stress, and having gone through all my savings, I woke up last week virtually unable to move. Money, or no, I realised I needed a serious massage. All that stress and tension of the last few months had finally got to me. And so I went to the ONLY place to get a massage in Los Angeles – The Massage Therapy Center. Trust me, it’s not cheap but they are SOOO great there. I’ve learned the hard way, better to have a great massage and pay for it, than a bad one that simply leaves your wallet lighter but no real improvement. At the Massage Therapy Center (I sound like an infomercial, no?), there’s none of the “What sort of massage do you want?”. Of course you can request a style, if that’s what floats your boat, but far, far, better, is the therapist asking what your issues are, where your tension is, and then tailoring your massage to your body’s needs. And believe me, those therapists usually know what you need more than you do. My therapist was AMAZING although she did say I’d need about five hours of work on my back to get out all the accumulated knots.

Still, after that amazing treatment, I suddenly had a great deal of clarity. I realised that while I was still as poor as a synagogue mouse, and still spending all day every day scanning the Internet, bugging friends and sending out job applications and resumes, I needed to find a way to be at peace with the fact that I wasn’t working. That didn’t mean swanning around town and maxing out my credit cards ( which I’m on the verge of doing by necessity anyway), but to actually allow myself some time to breathe. After all, I figured, when am I actually going to have the time to just do things I can’t do normally when I do have a full time job? I needed to find a way to be okay with being “funemployed” as a recent Los Angeles Times article noted. And so, I began to try and okay with my status, while still making the effort to search for work.

So what could I do that wouldn’t break my already broken bank? And what could I do to not just focus on what I wanted to do from here on out, but to truly take advantage of this situation? Well, firstly I have an uncle who very kindly has sent a small amount of money my way that should keep me covered for the next four to six weeks while I search for work. And, because of this, I am blessed to be able to say: Right, for the next four weeks I’m going to focus really hard on how to move forward while still being responsible.

Well, I went to the library! I love books and had a problem with buying them – A LOT! I love wandering into a bookstore and smelling the new pages (my sister can relate to this, too). But then I realised that the city has a plethora of libraries that I hadn’t used in ages. I made a careful list of the type of books I wanted to read, the authors I wanted to seek out, and to find a way to get back to FICTION, which is my great love after all, which is the purpose of this blog, and clearly of my life.

And the first book I read and am still reading? Not a work of fiction at all, but Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. What an amazing book. Why did I wait so long to read this? I am inspired. She is inspiring. Go read her book if you haven’t already. Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for putting the perspex in my perspective. I spent my week giving myself permission to just “be”, courtesy of Ms. Gilbert. I took my dog to the dog beach (she’s a Golden Retriever who loves nothing more than to swim) – on a WEDNESDAY! How decadent! How bohemian! I did it. I’m proud of it. The guilt twinges were definitely there but I was learning to be okay with taking a couple of hours out in the day, midweek and being okay with it. I went to the park, sat under a big tree (again with the dog) and read: the newspaper, fiction mags and Ms. Gilbert. Absolutely delicious! And none of these “experiments” cost me money.

Through a series of bizarre circumstances, I landed up meeting and connecting with a former Australian child star whom I adored when I was a little girl. The circumstances are so coincidental and surreal that I couldn’t do them justice by attempting to explain them, plus I want to cocoon and cherish the magic of this encounter so I will say nothing more on how this came about. I am forging a wonderful relationship with this extraordinary woman and am now working with her to publish a series of articles on her life and write her memoir/autobiography with her, all because of a series of random events colliding in the universe. I do not know where this relationship will lead either professionally or personally, but I’m just enjoying the ride and getting to know her and her amazing boyfriend who were clearly destined for each other. It’s true what they say, that another person’s happiness can rub off on you.

This chance meeting, the massage, the reading, the permission to breathe, the extraction of myself from a toxic work situation, have all somehow crystalised into my upcoming four week challenge, which is to allow myself to really spend more time on my fiction, to do what I love and let that place of peace and serenity guide my actions. I was lucky to interview for a job and even luckier to not be offered that job. And no, that is not a typo. I learned an important lesson at that interview. I have spent the last two and a half years freelancing, from home. As a (ahem) forty-something woman, I knew going into the interview the job was a desk job in a real office, where I’d have to wear real shoes (ugh) and clock watch (double ugh). And as I sat there in that interview, I could feel the walls closing in on me, and I almost couldn’t breathe. I knew I could never go back to a desk job and while that may narrow my options work-wise in the near future, it was enlightening to know who I really was, what I could truly deal with, and what I couldn’t. I love working from home. I am self-disciplined, organized, when it comes to work (with the usual dollop of procrastination we all have from time to time). I’m a morning person and love being able to start work at 6 a.m. My 12-year-old Golden Retriever loves having me at home too (the feeling is mutual). If I’d been offered that job, would I have taken it, though? Absolutely! But I wasn’t. I believe this was the universe’s way of confirming for me I’m not meant to be in an office on a 9-5 schedule.

And so, this leads me to my four-week challenge, (which I have already begun), and which I hope my readers will hold me accountable to. For the next four weeks my tasks are as follows:

  • To give myself permission to enjoy this time
  • To spend my days doing the following: Exercising (sadly I can no longer do my 6 a.m. on the beach boot camp classes because I have no money); more yoga; focus on writing fiction (three stories done already and sent to various competitions, sites etc);
  • Seeking only decent paying freelance markets (I’m over those cheap bastards who think you are not worth anything … see previous post
  • Finding a “happy place” every day. This includes more time with my dog in parks, promenades, the beach. Summer in LA is amazing. Take advantage – right?
  • Spending time seeking jobs – but NOT 24/7
  • Reading more books. On my list right now: The Secret, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Accidental Tourist (which I read years ago but Ann Lamott is extraordinary and I love this book), more Elizabeth Gilbert; Julie and Julia (I’m a vegetarian but obsessed with all forms of cooking and food books, shows etc. no idea why!).

And so, I beg your indulgence. Please help me keep to this regime. You’ll know I’m doing so by my postings. If I’m not posting and updating, feel free to kick my bum via this blog and keep me on the straight and narrow. I hope, pray and wish to believe that by doing what I need to do, and approaching what I love from a happy place will lead to emotional and financial stability. Help me in this journey and I will help you in yours if you wish me to. The focus now must be MORE FICTION and MORE FORGIVENESS. This, will be my F PLAN. Join me on my journey, won’t you?

Less facts more fiction

27 Jan

I know that making promises and commitments and resolutions to oneself can potentially be the fastest road to disaster (ie not achieving those stated promises, commitments and resolutions), bu I’m going out on a limb here anyway. Part of  creating this blog was to ensure I focus more on fiction, and I have yet to do that today (and it’s now 9:50 p.m. on Monday night).

Nonetheless, I remain undaunted. Today, I wrote about romantic hotels, honeymoon hotels, fixed broken links (yawn) on the Web site I currently edit for and waded through some notes on Los Angeles 5th District City Council candidates. This is all my “fact-ion” work. My soul is starved from not working on my fiction today. So, although I got a lot of work done (and let’s face it the work (barely) pays the bills these days, and I did go to a gym class that kicked my arse, and I did get to watch House (guilty pleasure), I did not indulge in any fiction or fictitious pursuits. So, tonight, I’m off to bed with some fiction writing magazines, which will hopefully galvanize me into action tomorrow (in between all the “real” work I have to do).

I lay this out here to ensure I spend some time every day fictionalizing my life. Join my on my fictitious journey, won’t you? And keep my posted on how you too balance fact and fiction in your world.

Happy fictitious thoughts to one and all!

Writing fiction to deadlines

26 Jan

I’m so thrilled that I managed to make this morning’s deadline for the Writer’s Weekly 24-hour Winter Short Story contest. As a journalist, I’m used to deadlines. I know that you can’t wait for the muse to strike and there’s no such thing as writer’s block. You can’t tell your editor and publisher ‘er.. sorry there’s a big white space on the front page page of the newspaper because you’d lost your mojo the night before. So I know when I”m writing a story to just sit down and write and know that the story will come and the deadline will be met.

Fiction, though, that’s a little tougher. I always thought fiction was about truly waiting to be hit by a bolt of lightning. You’d think I’d never heard of stream-of-consciousness, right? That was until I discovered while still living in Israel, Roberta Allen’s Fast Fiction

Back then, I used to subscribe to a British writing magazine, because there was nothing in Israel! I saw her book advertised and sent off for it. God bless Amazon! It’s a simple conceit. Pick one of the myriad of topics in the book, switch on a timer and write about the designated topic for five minutes. No more, no less. Stop when the timer goes off. No time to think, ponder, muse or pontificate. No time to dot i’s or cross t’s. Just pure, abandoned writing. And I was on a writing high. Freed from the burden of self-censorship, I wrote dozens of five minute pieces of fiction and tapped into a creative energy I didn’t know existed. Some of those pieces were pure unadulterated crap, but some I went back to and turned into neatly polished and crafted stories. One even saw me shortlisted in a short story competition I entered.

This weekend, I entered my second 24-hour Short Story competition courtesy of Writer’s Weekly and the brilliant Angela Hoy. Another simple conceit. Pay your $5 up front and you receive a story topic and a few  prompt lines which you can use in total, merely allude to or use parts of to craft your story. You are also provided with the word limit, and then you have 24 hours to write your story and send it in. Then sit back, wait a month and see if you won, or placed. I undertook my first 24 hour Writers Weekly contest last Halloween. I didn’t even place, but I had a lot of fun trying to create a story out of the topic given and had a real sense of pride in completing the task and making the deadline.

Maybe because of all that work with Roberta’s book, my creative muscle still worked under pressure. But this time around, I was really stumped to come up with an original – and let’s face it you need an original idea when everyone is writing on the same topic – story in the face of the following prompt:

The small wood stove kept the tiny chapel warm and their
snowy footprints had already melted by the door. The dim
light from the candle nubs played on the faces of the
minister and his wife, and made the bride and groom’s
shadows dance on the empty pews.

The minister’’s monotone continued, “If any of you can show
just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now;
or else for ever hold your peace.”

All four turned abruptly when they heard a cough by the

I literally did have to sleep on this one, and by  6 a.m. after much sifting and percolating in my brain throughout the night, I came up with my (hopefully) original take on this prompt. I have no idea how I’ll do, but I do enjoy the thrill that comes with creativity under pressure. Call me crazy, but it’s what I do best. It  faces the procrastinator in me head on and eggs me on. Doing these crazy competitions and five minute stories not only expands my horizons, it also allows me to create more unencumbered fiction and spread my literary wings. And that’s the type of enjoyment money just can’t buy.